My ex-partner of 10 years has left my property, my decision as he is an addictive gambler, but he is now trying to claim back all the ‘housekeeping’.

He did not buy the house, my mortgage was minimal, did not pay for any renovations and I paid the bills.

He has instructed a solicitor based on him saying that the only reason he moved in with me was because I said ‘I would see him right re owning part of my property’.

He has financially abused me for years, emotional pressure for years and I even suffered a heart attack due to the stress.

I am in my 60s and can now see he has been manipulating me for years just because I own my home. How can this be right?

Money concern: What claim could an ex live-in partner have over your home? (Picture posed by model)

Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: This is a very troubling story and I am sorry to hear you have suffered this.

It is understandable you are worried about your abusive ex getting a solicitor and talking about having a claim on your home, and we asked a lawyer to answer your concerns below.

Unfortunately, many people who experience financial abuse are not sure where to turn for help.

Age UK wrote a very helpful report about it a few years ago, which explained how to spot signs of financial abuse, and what to do if you’re a victim or suspect someone else is at risk. 

We asked Age UK if it had any advice for you, and you can find its response below too.

Alexandra Kenyon: ‘The outcome for unmarried separations is usually very different from the outcome of married separations’

Alexandra Kenyon, partner at Dickinson Parker Hill Solicitors, replies: I’m really sorry to hear of the issues that you have had with an ex-partner. Splitting up from someone is always difficult, even if it was your decision to call time on the relationship.

As I understand it, you were not married. This is an important distinction to make, because the outcome for unmarried separations is usually very different from the outcome of married separations.

If you had been married, then your partner would have had an automatic claim against your house as a marital home and the fact that it was in your sole name may not have made too much difference.

However, as you are not married, your ex-partner cannot make an automatic claim against the property – he has to prove that he has an interest in it, or has acquired one.

I see that you say that he hasn’t paid anything other than ‘housekeeping’ and that helps a lot; had your partner paid into renovations or the mortgage then that may have earned him a legal interest in the equity of the house.

Simply paying housekeeping – his share of food and utility bills – does not give him a right to a share of the house.

A court is very unlikely to return housekeeping money to him – otherwise he would have lived without having to contribute towards his living expenses and that would not be fair.

What he seems to be relying on is the alleged promise you made. There are two issues that arise out of this – did you indeed make that promise, and did he do anything to his detriment in reliance of it.

Even if you spoke those words, it seems a very vague comment and therefore it may well be hard for your ex to prove exactly what was meant and understood by it.

If however he did something to his detriment in reliance of your ‘promise’ (for example, left a secure tenancy or council house) then he may be able to argue that entitled him to a share of your house.

I see that you say that you have suffered financial abuse. The details you give are a little scanty but it may be that his behaviour was so severe as to be considered coercive and controlling behaviour, or even fraud, depending on the circumstances.

This is now a criminal offence, so you may want to report this to the police.

As it is likely to cost your ex a considerable amount to bring an application to the court, it may be worth your while to take this case to a solicitor of your own, and ask them to write a letter on your behalf.

Their letter to his solicitor could ask him for proof of the promise, and what he says he did as a result (apart from moving in).

It may well be that you, via your solicitor, can point out that you didn’t make any such promise, and he didn’t act to his detriment.

Consulting a solicitor will cost you money, but if your ex knows you have a legal representative, who will help you counter his claims, he might be dissuaded from pursuing this, and perhaps you will hear no more about it.

Communicating with your ex via your solicitors might also be a sensible precaution given that you say he has financially abused and put you under emotional pressure for a long time.

Solicitors will charge widely varying rates for having one meeting with you and writing one letter, but the range might be from £75 plus VAT to £250 plus VAT.

Although it is easy to be wise after the event, giving consideration to these issues before you move in with someone is always best.

For a few hundred pounds a solicitor can draw up a cohabitation contact and perhaps a will too, setting out on what basis you are living together, and what payments are for, so that in the event of your relationship failing, you have a document that sets out exactly what was paid for and why.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, replies: For too long abuse in later life like this has been a hidden issue, with hidden victims.

Caroline Abrahams: ‘It is vital that older people’s right to make their own financial decisions is respected’

We would encourage anyone who suspects that they, or somebody they know, is being exploited to contact the social services department of their local council or the police straight away.

Government, local authorities and financial institutions also need to recognise the relentless threat to older people that fraud represents, and not just from professional fraudsters but sometimes from those closer to home – and take much more determined action against it.

Age UK welcomes the new draft Domestic Abuse Bill and the Government’s aspiration to improve awareness of, and response to, domestic abuse. 

We are particularly pleased that the Bill takes a more robust consideration of issues of potential coercion and control in enquires relating to the potential financial abuse of older people by family members.

It is vital that older people’s right to make their own financial decisions is respected.

Age UK offers a free advice service for older people who are affected by any of these issues. People can call Age UK Information & Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565, visit www.ageuk.org.uk or contact their local Age UK for further information.

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